Local Students Build Electric Vehicle

Madison Memorial High School team gets first-hand lesson in the future of transportation.

Technical education students from Madison Memorial High School took a victory lap in mid-May. A team of 18 students raced their classroom-built electric vehicle for the first time, putting it to the test at the annual Electrathon competition. The statewide race, organized by the Wisconsin Energy Efficient Vehicle Association (WEEVA), combines lessons in engineering and manufacturing, giving students the opportunity to design, assemble and race a one-person vehicle powered by a small electric motor.

Local Students Build Electric Vehicle

Photo provided by Madison Memorial High School.

With financial support from the MGE Foundation for materials, the Memorial students spent a year designing and gathering components, and building a vehicle capable of qualifying for the race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Miles Tokheim, technology and engineering teacher at Memorial, watched the students grow even as their vehicle hit the track for the first time.

"The students took ownership and excelled over the two days and became a team. After each race, the vehicle was modified to make it better," said Tokheim. "The students were looking at controller data, modifying gear ratios and reducing friction. It was inspiring to be guiding them through the learning process."

The Memorial vehicle raced against competitors from across Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. The vehicles are scored on braking, maneuverability, design and endurance.

With a motto of "making energy efficiency cool," organizers focus heavily on energy conservation and efficiency in the competition. Significant weight is given to the number of miles an EV can travel in one hour on a single battery charge. Memorial's best of four efforts saw their vehicle travel 16.65 miles in an hour, which put it near the middle of the 37-team field. Tokheim considers the team effort a win for all involved.

"Considering it was our first time doing it, I thought we did really well," said Tokheim. "The kids all had a wonderful time and learned a lot. It was a great experience for everyone."

published: 05-31-2018